The shift in the balance of air power in the Aegean Sea in favour of Greece following the commissioning of the Rafale and the F-16 Viper fighter jets in the Hellenic Air Force (and later the F-35) has caused uneasiness and great discomfort in the political and military brass in Turkey.
Apart from the addition of improved fighters in the Greek Air Force, a great headache in itself, Turkey’s problem was exacerbated by the fact that many Turkish fighter pilots in retirement, who had been purged as supposedly being sympathisers of Fethullah Gülen, were recalled to duty to cover the needs of the Turkish Air Force, as was ascertained by Greek pilots during the 2020 Oruc Reis crisis and their multiple aerial engagements.
As Greek pilots reported at the time, they would often encounter older pilots (grey-haired, as they said) in the cockpit during dog fights. This means Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his staff have brought back ex-military or civil aviation pilots to operate the aging F-16s.
Reports indicate that more than 600 pilots who had been prosecuted as Gülenists have been gradually recalled to service. Also, the Turkish Ministry of Defence requested that the 15-year limit for mandatory service of pilots be extended to 21, so as to reduce the shortage of combat pilots.
These pilots had already left for civilian companies, but there is now a 6-year license suspension if they don’t return to the F16. Indeed, according to Turkish publications, many of them resorted to the Turkish courts, but to no avail, and are now looking for ways to take positions in foreign airlines.
Fethullah Gülen is considered by Erdoğan to be the "leader of terrorists" of the FETÖ organisation
He is the leader of a powerful movement in Turkey, which has a huge network of schools in his homeland, but also around the world, non-governmental organisations and businesses called Hizmet (in Turkish it means "service") and has a great influence in the media, the police and the judiciary.
His followers are known as "Gülenists".